Unlike the previous volume’s extensive 3D remake of Hokuto no Ken, which took the original’s bare bones and then teased them out into something more acceptably modern, Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol.12: Puyo Puyo Tsuu Perfect Set has been treated to the very lightest of modern touches, almost as though they were aiming to change or update as little as they could possibly get away with. Disappointing? Not at all—and not because this Sega Ages series has made some… questionable alterations to classic titles before now either. The original Puyo Puyo Tsuu is an exquisitely balanced masterpiece of a puzzle game, and like all masterpieces all it ever really needs is the occasional gentle clean and some careful handling, not a misjudged makeover.
So really all that’s been done here is a little graphical polishing and some audio based tweaks. The redrawn art (and thankfully it does appear to have been redrawn, rather than upscaled or [shudder] “smoothed”) closely matches every delightfully blobby Puyo, background tile, and eye-catching image found in the C-2 based (essentially a souped-up Mega Drive) arcade game, striking a fantastic balance between the natural “grittiness” of the original pixel art and the PlayStation 2’s increased resolution. Everything’s just that little bit sharper, without ever crossing over that invisible line into unpleasantly rounded mobile game-y territory.
Unfortunately the changes made to the music are less successful. Everyone’s favourite tunes have been slightly rearranged, and to my admittedly inexpert ears some of the instruments sound out of balance, perhaps more pronounced/muted than they should be. It doesn’t sound like the remixed melodies have any unifying direction or purpose behind them: they’ve been fiddled with for the sake of being different. Still, even I have to admit that after a short while they sounded different rather than conclusively worse, although I still missed the original tracks.
These two re-dos conveniently combine in the main single player mode’s pre-battle cutscenes (as previously seen in the Super Famicom version of the game, and curiously absent from the arcade/Mega Drive releases), the pleasantly daft animations intact and every silly line now energetically voiced. It’s a good extra that helps these consciously silly scenes really come to life; everyone from wisps to bandaged up mummies to Suketoudara (who I suppose would be considered a sort of reverse mermaid with his human limbs and fish body) giving it their all while series heroine Arle remains often unimpressed and occasionally unnerved by their oddball behaviour.
The solo arcade mode available here is good old Puyo Puyo Tsuu as I’m sure you already know it, with a choice between a short beginner course, regular Tsuu’s multi-level tower with Sata—sorry, the “Dark Prince” at the top, and a lengthy gauntlet against every single character in the game. Elsewhere in this boldly titled Perfect Set you’ll find happily unfussy versus and endless modes, their lack of options meaning only the bare minimum number of button presses separate you (and maybe a friend) from your desired way to play.
So that’s all great and normal… unlike Nazo Puyo. This mode has appeared as an intermittently reoccurring spinoff series for a while now, nonsensically popping up on wholly unrelated formats like the Game Gear and SNES. Those earlier versions tended to feature RPG-like story sections, but here the focus is entirely on clearing a linear series of hundreds of handcrafted puzzles, split neatly across two individual (and thankfully, saveable) games plainly titled Nazo Puyo 1 and 2. The basic rules remain the same as ever—match four or more Puyos to make them disappear, don’t let them touch the top of the screen—the difference here is the win condition changes every stage.
Challenges may involve making six Puyos disappear at exactly the same time, or arranging the squidgy little not-beans so they create a four-chain combo. The good news is the order and quantity of Puyos available to you is fixed, so clearing a stage is never, ever, down to anything other than pure skill.
Which is something of a problem when you’re as bad at the game as I am, even after all this time and goodness knows how many Puyo-related titles I’ve bought—I really am beyond terrible at organising them into any sort of useful pattern—so this mode should be my nemesis… but in truth the fixed challenges and their clear goals (do watch out if you’re importing this one, as the conditions are written in Japanese) helped make me a (slightly) better player. Nazo Puyo gives me the tools to solve a very specific situation, and then allows me as many attempts as I’ve got the patience for to work it out. Am I almost there? Way off? It doesn’t matter, because every test-condition interaction is another chance to see how they combine and drop and disappear and the learn from it.
Should you somehow clear Nazo Puyo, or simply feel it’s not putting up enough of a challenge for your tastes, a flexible edit mode allows you to set up and save your own puzzles too.
There’s an “umbrella” options menu covering all modes (where applicable), making it easy to dive in, tweak Tsuu to your liking, then get on with all the Puyo’ing your heart desires. Most of these choices are very standard settings—the number of rounds in a versus battle, whether the game autosaves or not, the CPU’s general difficulty level—although there are a few designed only for dedicated Puyo fans thrown into the mix as well: although if you don’t already know whether you want sousai on or renka shibari off then it’s almost certainly best to leave them be and spend your time enjoying the default Puyo Tsuu experience instead.
Last of all there’s a bonus section, which also happens to be the reason why this colourful and thoroughly inoffensive game has had to include the extreme violence/gore red warning triangle on the back of its box. The “bonus” here (which really should have been some sort of Puyo art gallery if you ask me), is the chance to view fullscreen adver-FMVs for every game in the 2500 series—including violence ’em up Hokuto no Ken.
This may not be an “exciting” entry in the 2500 series—Puyo Puyo Tsuu is not a long lost title, it has never been difficult to acquire, and this port hasn’t been wildly reimagined in some way that makes it all feel brand new either (thank goodness)—but sometimes best-practise accessibility really is this uncomplicated: Take a great game, spruce it up just a tiny bit, then make sure it turns up in the one place the greatest number of people can enjoy it.